Stock futures came back from lows, though remained under pressure on Friday, Dec. 1, as Senate Republicans struggled to get their tax bill over the finish line.
Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were down 5 points, S&P 500 futures fell 3 points, and Nasdaq futures dropped 23 points.
The chances of the bill's passage looked a little more certain after Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines voiced his support for the legislation. Daines became a "yes" after Senate leaders agreed to increase the deduction available for pass-through income. The deduction amount was raised to 23% from 17.4%, according to analysis by The Wall Street Journal.
A day earlier, Sen. John McCain said he would support the legislation. In a statement, McCain said that the bill, "though far from perfect, would enhance American competitiveness, boost the economy, and provide long overdue tax relief for middle class families." However, a number of economists have criticized the bill's logic -- tax relief for corporations does not necessarily inspire increased reinvestment and higher worker wages. In fact, the New York Times reported that an initiative to deliver corporate tax savings in 2004 was funneled toward share buybacks, instead.
Senate Republicans have delayed further votes on their version of a tax bill until late Friday morning after running into a procedural roadblock. Late Thursday, Nov. 30, a Senate rule-making office turned down a so-called trigger mechanism that would have raised taxes if the bill's revenue goals were missed, Bloomberg reported. Three Republican senators, whose votes are crucial for passage of the bill, had insisted on the trigger.
The bill's passage is far from certain with a a few holdouts still concerned over how cuts will drive up the deficit -- Republicans can only afford to lose two votes from their own party. The Joint Committee on Taxation said the bill will add $1 trillion to the deficit over a decade, and that economic growth from the tax cut will only offset $407 billion of the $1.5 trillion cost over the next decade.
Markets rocketed to records on Thursday on high hopes Republicans can deliver on their promised corporate tax cuts. The Dow reached a new record for its third day in a row, while the S&P 500 beat a record set on Tuesday, Nov. 28. The bill provides modest tax breaks for the middle class and significant benefits for the wealthy and corporations and will require borrowing some $1.5 trillion to add to the federal deficit.
Technology names were again lower on Friday a day after recovering from a mid-week selloff. The sector had plummeted on Wednesday, Nov. 29, and delivered the Nasdaq its worst day in three months. Facebook Inc. (FB) , Apple Inc. (AAPL) , Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Adobe Systems Inc. (ADBE) were all lower in premarket trading. The tech sector has been particularly susceptible to selloffs since the middle of the year following a steep run-up over the past 18 months.
Apple, Microsoft and Facebook are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio.
On the economic calendar Friday, motor vehicle sales for November will be released throughout the day, the PMI manufacturing index for November is set for 9:45 a.m. ET, and the ISM manufacturing index for November and construction spending for October will be issued at 10 a.m.
Crude oil prices were higher ahead of an afternoon reading on drilling activity in the U.S. Prices made small gains a day earlier after Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other oil-producing nations agreed to extend a production cut agreement through to the end of 2018. Representatives of oil-producing nations had convened in Vienna to discuss a supply-demand imbalance.
The current agreement has reduced supply by 1.8 million barrels per day since January and supported oil's rise beyond $60 a barrel. The agreement to limit production is currently due to expire in March. An extension was widely expected.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil was up 0.9% to $57.89 a barrel on Thursday.
CVS Health Corp. (CVS) is nearing an agreement to acquire health insurer Aetna Inc. (AET) for more than $66 billion in cash and stock. The acquisition could be announced as soon as Monday, Dec. 4, The Wall Street Journal reported. The latest price tag -- down from the Journal's previously reported $70 billion -- values Aetna at about $200 to $205 a share, and consist mainly of cash. Aetna shares closed Thursday at $180.18 with a market cap of $58.56 billion.
Updated from 7:43 a.m. ET, Dec. 1.
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